On January 30th we left Quepos heading toward Puntarenas, where we planned to leave the boat in a marina for about a month, to explore the interiors of north Costa Rica and south Nicaragua. Since it was a 65 miles trip, we decided to break it into two steps spending one night in Playa Manta, right after Punta Leona.
Puntarenas is a city laid out on a 4 miles strip of sand, surrounded on one side by the open ocean, and on the other side by a narrow bay with fairly shallow waters. The only two marinas that were built in the area are placed toward the end of the bay, so you need to navigate the shallow waters with the help of a pilot that knows how to dribble the sand banks. Most importantly, it is safe to navigate the shallow waters about a hour before the tide climax, to have the possibility to free up in case you would got stuck in a sand bank. Of the two marinas available we booked Puerto Azul, as they are the only ones to have docking facilities. They provide a pilot service to guide you in the shallow waters of the bay, so we set an appointment at 10.30am at the lighthouse of Puntarenas, about a hour before the high tide. After about half an hour of navigation we were able to moor at their dock with some challenging maneuvering due to the tidal currents.
When we arrived, we were reassured by the dock master that the depth of the slip where we docked was sufficient to withstand the lowest possible tide (in fact, the tidal range is not the same every day, but changes depending on the Moon – Earth configuration). Surprise surprise, the morning of the second day that we were there, we found Zoe 50 cm out of the water. Since the tidal range was going to make the situation worse in the following days, we immediately asked the dock master to provide us with an alternative solution. After some consultations, they proposed us to move to a different slip where they were going to pump away the sand from the bottom with the use of an electrical pump. We soon realized that they did not have the right equipment nor the motivation to solve the problem. They waited until the early afternoon to start the operations, as this was the time when the tide would have been low. However, only then they realized they could not start the pump that they brought since the morning, so they sourced a smaller pump that was clearly not up for a job that should have been done differently anyway (they would have “pushed” the sand away just along the very short dock instead of removing it from a broader area).
We therefore decided to investigate with the nearby marina the possibility to stay safely at one of their moorings. Having received reassurance that this was the case (crossing fingers…), we asked for a refund of what we already paid at Puerto Azul. The manager on duty confirmed we would receive a full refund, so we immediately moved to the Yacht Club marina, where we left the boat for 3 weeks while we visited Nicaragua and the region of Guanacaste in Costa Rica.